Dontrelle Willis, on handing out eight walks while allowing six runs in 3.2 innings Sunday:
Honestly, today was just unacceptable. I can’t put my team in that
type of hole. Can’t beat anybody pitching like that. It’s very tough to
pitch when you’re in a jam every inning. I’m going to have to finally
do something, or somebody else is going to have to go out there to help
this ball club win. Because I just can’t go out there and do that. You
can’t defend a walk.
I appreciate Skip giving me the leeway to go out there every time.
Every time he gives me leeway, I go one step forward and two steps
back. It’s just unacceptable, and I’m disappointed in myself the way I
played today. Just throwing the ball and making them hit it. I don’t
care what corner it is. Just go out there and establish that I can
throw the ball over the plate.
Struggling to throw strikes is nothing new for Willis, but he initially
showed some signs of potentially getting over the problem after
rejoining the Tigers’ rotation last month. However, over his last three
starts Willis has walked 18 batters in 11 innings and is sadly looking
like as big a mess as ever.
Jeremy Bonderman was quickly sent back to the disabled list
last week after struggling in his season debut, but as Willis notes in
the above quote manager Jim Leyland has been very patient with him. So
far, at least. While the Tigers are up three games in what is a weak AL
Central, they can’t afford to keep trotting Willis out there to implode
every fifth day and he might be one more rough outing from being
replaced by Zach Miner.
Rick Ankiel blazed a trail for young left-handed pitchers who
suddenly can’t throw strikes by becoming a full-time outfielder and some people are calling for
the Tigers to make the same switch with Willis. Of course, while
Willis’ career .233/.279/.358 line is really good for a pitcher it’s
also really bad for an outfielder.
Plus, even if Willis were to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps by
significantly boosting his offense after becoming a full-time hitter
the Ankiel path also included multiple seasons between pitching in the
majors and hitting in the majors. Ankiel had his Willis-like struggles
in 2001 with another brief stint as a pitcher in 2004 and became a
starting outfielder in 2007. Willis is already 27 years old, so he
doesn’t really have that kind of time.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.
Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.
Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.
Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.